UFC 231 in Toronto: Main Card Predictions | Def Pen
UFC 231
Max Holloway punches Jose Aldo (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

It’s that time of year again: The UFC is returning to Toronto, Ontario in their efforts to globalize the brand.

After negating Toronto in 2017, The 2018 edition appears, at least compared to the past outings, to be something for MMA purists to rejoice for. No, we don’t get to see our prodigal son return with George St. Pierre waiting for his next ” legacy” fight, but we do get to see some of the brightest rising stars in the company in action.

But still, outside of what Toronto has come to expect when the Octagon is set up at Madison Square Garden, the event is sure to be a fun one. Featherweight champion Max Holloway will return to face Jiu-Jitsu specialist in a 5 round title fight. Valentina Shevchenko finally gets her crack at a title shot against tested veteran  Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the vacant Women’s Strawweight title. If victorious, Jedrzejczyk would become the first woman to win titles in different divisions, taking her place in UFC history.

Jimi Manuwa(#7) vs. Thiago Santos(#15)

UFC 231
Jimi Manuwa (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Nothing like starting the main card off in Toronto with a Light Heavyweight bout featuring two of the hardest hitting 205ers in the business. Regardless of who wins this fight, we know one of them is going to sleep. With 15 knockouts and 13 knockouts respectively, this bout is sure to kick off the PPV with someone going to sleep. With losing his recent pair of fights, Manuwa is in dire need to stay afloat in a lackluster Light Heavyweight division, on the other hand, Thiago Santos has finally found his groove as an MMA, winning 5 of his last 6 bouts, with only one coming by decision.

As Manuwa continues to age into his late 30’s, it seems as if father time has caught up to the knockout specialist, and as his chin continues to wear, he is slowly but surely aging out of his prime. With Santos being the younger and more active of the two, all signs point to an opening upset- moving Santos closer to a #5 ranked fight.

prediction: Santos, TKO, Rd.2

Hakeem Dawodu vs. Kyle Bochniak

UFC 231
Kyle Bochniak (Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY Sports)

Let’s get one thing out of the way, Kyle Bochniak will always serve a role to any MMA program he’s involved in as he puts on some of the most electric fights in the UFC Featherweight division. Not afraid to take a hit, Bochniak has aptly earned his nickname “Crash”. Hakeem Dawodu, on the other hand, seems to be one of the “chosen ones” from the UFC brass, being given a big name in his home country. Dawodu possesses rare knockout power but with Bochniak’s steel chin(albeit his pure refusal to defend himself), it seems that Dawodu will be taken into deep waters for the first time in his young career culminating into a three-round war that ends with the Canadian taking the victory on his home soil.

prediction: Dawodu, Unanimous Decision

Alex Oliveira(#13) vs. Gunnar Nelson(#14)

UFC 231
Alex Oliveira (Jeffrey Basinger)

Gunnar Nelson picked one hell of an opponent to fight in his return to the octagon after a 17 month stretch of inactivity. Alex ” Cowboy” Oliveira is a flat out gladiator who will fight anybody, anywhere, anytime and will do it with a big smile smeared across his face. With the welterweight division being flooded with talent, Gunnar Nelson is in danger of being lost in the shuffle with his submission and takedown-heavy game. Oliveira, on the other hand, has a reasonable length advantage(4 inches) and is considered the larger fighter if Nelson is unable to close the distance and take the bout onto the ground, Oliveira will coast to another name on his resume.

By the way, it’s clear that top-ranked fighters in the welterweight division do not want to be matched up with Oliveira, he’s lost twice since 2016. Give this man a headlining bout, if he wins.

prediction: Oliveira, Rd.2,KO

Valentina Shevchenko(#1) vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk(#1)

UFC 231
Valentina Shevchenko (Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC)

A decorated kickboxer, Shevchenko is primarily known for precise counter-striking and to see her fight the most decorated female championship in MMA history with Joanna Jedzrejczyk for the first time in the octagon should be bigger than it is showcased to be. Shevchenko is universally recognized in the MMA world to be one of the most feared competitors to have ever graced the octagon.  With a black belt in Judo, Shevchenko has no qualms in taking the fight to the ground and beat the breaks off of her opponents.

Jedrzejczyk is no slouch, just to be clear, with being one of the most accurate and well-conditioned strikers in UFC history. Jedrezejcyk, unlike Shevchenko, utilizes just about everything in her arsenal against opponents as she constantly varies between quick jabs and heavy body shots while also mixing in a combination of knees, elbows, and high front kicks. Jedrzejczyk has heavily relied on her footwork and distance to run through her competition before running into fan favorite Rose Namajunas and relinquishing her strawweight belt.

With a return to flyweight for Jedrzejczyk, she has the opportunity to become the first female fighter in UFC history to hold two different belts whilst avenging her 0-3 record to Shevchenko.

The deciding factor in this fight is which form of Joanna appears; if Joanna comes into the fight peppering Shevchenko with blistering leg kicks and sharp jabs, this fight is for the taking. But if Joanna comes in hesitant to the bigger Shevchenko, she’ll fall flat against her nemesis.  With Valentina’s growing ground game arsenal and a reasonable size advantage, it’ll be too much for the shifty Jedrzejczyk to handle and Shevchenko takes whats belonged to her for almost 2 years as the best female flyweight in the UFC. and the rightful champion.

Prediction: Shevchenko, Rd.4, TKO.

Max Holloway(C) vs. Brian Ortega(#1)

UFC 231
Brian Ortega (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

After becoming the first fighter ever to finish former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar in brutal fashion, undefeated featherweight star Brian Ortega will get his shot at one of the hottest fighters on the planet, 145-pound champion Max Holloway. After getting his title shot delayed this July due to Holloway’s frightening health scare, all systems seem to be ready to finally getting this bout this December.

It’s a gargantuan task for Ortega, considering Holloway is riding a 12-fight win streak and has cleared out every worthy name on the featherweight roster. But Ortega seems to have all the tools to take on a fighter like Holloway, a respectable stand-up and some of the best Jui-Jitsu that has ever graced the octagon.

Although Brian is no pushover, Max is the closest thing to a fighting zombie we have ever seen. Holloway’s striking is simply superior to the young Ortega and his movement plus reach advantage will not allow Brian to maneuver his way to bring the fight onto the ground and sink in a submission. Unless Ortega catches Holloway in a similar manner he did Cub Swanson, Holloway’s reign in the featherweight division will continue with the “blessed” one.

Prediction: Holloway by Unanimous Decision.

You can watch the full card through the UFC, right here.

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